When Was the Last Time You Played?
Reconnecting With My Games, My Family and My Players
by Adam Pratt, Game Grid Arcade & ArcadeHeroes.com
With summer almost upon us, I found myself experiencing a little bit of writers block for this month’s article. Much like the guy who ran out of ideas for new fortunes to write for fortune cookies, there are times when it feels like I’ve written all I can about the subject of arcades and business.
Despite such a feeling, sometimes all you need is a little inspiration to get the old creative juices flowing. For me, it came almost at the last minute as I was out doing yard work.
As a kid, I loathed outdoor chores. I would have preferred to be grounded in my room than spend time weeding. But I did enjoy being outside and now that I’m all grown up with a home and yard of my own to maintain, my childhood perspective has changed.
I don’t have any talent for gardening, but there were a few moments when, as the sun was setting and the day cooling down, the noise from an adjacent street seemed to fade away, leaving the pleasant sounds of birds and a light breeze to accompany my weed pulling. It was then that I found it satisfying to be making a tiny difference in my yard, which led me to recall some nice moments during our recent local schools’ spring break.
At the arcade, spring break is a busy time and I don’t complain because that means we have plenty of customers to entertain. As I looked over the numbers of a completed March, I had additional reason to be excited: This was the best month I’ve ever seen in 10 years of business. March generally isn’t a month to write about, but with my local economy booming right along with the national one, things are different this year. So far, we’ve outperformed 2017, which had been the best year yet.
But that’s not what I was thinking about as I pulled some plants out of the ground that were making me want to sneeze. Instead, my thoughts went to the day my own kids spent a few hours at the arcade playing games.
Between all I do –– running the business, managing several writing projects (for myself and others), shooting and editing videos and so on –– I cherish the time I get to spend with my family. It’s funny, though. They hadn’t been to the arcade in a while. I guess for them, it just doesn’t have the same sheen it might have for others because it’s always there and available to them (that and it doesn’t have Minecraft or the latest Legend Of Zelda!).
While I wasn’t able to spend all of my time playing with them (I did have to keep an eye up front in case a customer had a problem or needed change), I did get to play a few games and found doing so to be a refreshing break from the normal hustle and bustle.
So as I enjoyed those quiet moments outside, those recent memories, along with the feeling of joy, is what came to mind. It also made me want to ask my fellow operators: When was the last time you played one of your own games? When was the last time you played them with a friend or a loved one?
Why do I ask? Does it even matter to how we run our businesses? I think it does.
Think about this for a minute: If enough time passes without doing a certain activity, you’ll start to forget. That old “use it or lose it” adage, which applies most commonly to a language, really fits across the board. In terms of our games, it’s easy to forget what makes them fun.
Contrary to what some of my customers think –– those who jealously lament that I “spend all day playing video games for a living” –– I rarely take the time to play. As I rediscovered over this past spring break (and getting back to my weeding analogy), playing the games I present to customers helped me reconnect with my roots with multiple benefits.
There is, of course, the technical side. Since I’m my own game technician, it’s good to ensure that everything is in proper working order. There’s no better way than by playing.
Beyond that, it touches on something deeper. Just like that small sense of accomplishment from improving a yard, remembering why you picked certain games in the first place goes beyond the collections sheet and their earnings performance week in and week out.
The question about playing with a friend or family member is also just as important – if not more so. This is because arcade games and our venues are designed to be social experiences, something more visceral than playing online with anonymous (and sometimes foul-mouthed) players. A couple of games I played with the kids (or just watched them play) included multiplayer titles such as Pac-Man Battle Royale, Dariusburst Another Chronicle and our World Tour Foosball. The play was brief, but memorable. Just take another look at the photo on the opening page of my column. That’s a picture of our youngest daughter enjoying pure happiness while playing Darius.
If you haven’t taken the time in a while, I would highly recommend playing a few of your games, especially if you can do so with family or friends. You might be surprised by the results!
Adam Pratt is the owner and operator of the Game Grid arcade near Salt Lake City, Utah. He also publishes the Arcade Heroes blog site and serves as an advisor for the web-based game supplier BMI Worldwide. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.